Antidepressants and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) for patients with depression: Analysis of the medical expenditure panel survey from the United States

Despite the empirical literature demonstrating the efficacy of antidepressant medications for treatment of depression disorder, these medications’ effect on patients’ overall well-being and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) remains controversial. This study investigates the effect of antidepressant medication use on patient-reported HRQoL for patients who have depression.

A comparative cohort, secondary database analysis was conducted using data from the United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey for patients who had depression. HRQoL was measured using the SF-12 and reported as physical and mental component summaries (PCS and MCS). A cohort of patients that used antidepressant medications were compared to a cohort of patients that did not. Univariate and multivariate difference-in-differences (D-I-D) analyses were used to assess the significance of the mean difference of change on the PCS and MCS from baseline to follow-up.

On average, 17.5 million adults were diagnosed with depression disorder each year during the period 2005–2016. The majority were female (67.9%), a larger proportion of whom received antidepressant medications (60.5% vs. 51.5% of males). Although use of antidepressants was associated with some improvement on the MCS, D-I-D univariate analysis revealed no significant difference between the two cohorts in PCS (–0.35 vs. –0.34, p = 0.9595) or MCS (1.28 vs. 1.13, p = 0.6405). The multivariate D-I-D analyses ensured the robustness of these results.

The real-world effect of using antidepressant medications does not continue to improve patients’ HRQoL over time. Future studies should not only focus on the short-term effect of pharmacotherapy, it should rather investigate the long-term impact of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ HRQoL.